(by Rose Snyder, Managing Director Coaching Division, USOC Former Director of Club Services, USA Swimming)
I. Thou shalt not impose thy ambitions on thy child.
Remember that swimming is your child’s activity. Improvements and progress occur at different rates for each individual. Don’t judge your child’s progress based on the performance of other athletes and don’t push him based on what you think he should be doing. The nice thing about swimming is every person can strive to do his personal best and benefit from the process of competitive swimming.
II. Thou shalt be supportive no matter what.
There is only one question to ask your child after training or a competition – “Did you have fun?” If meets and training are not fun, your child should not be forced to participate.
III. Thou shalt not coach thy child.
You are involved in one of the few youth sports programs that offers professional coaching. Do not undermine the professional coach by trying to coach your child on the side. Your job is to provide love and support. The coach is responsible for the technical part of the job. You should not offer advice on technique or race strategy. Never pay your child for a performance. This will only serve to confuse your child concerning the reasons to strive for excellence and weaken the swimmer/coach bond.
IV. Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swimming meet.
You should be encouraging and never criticise your child or the coach. Both of them know when mistakes have been made. Remember “yelling at” is not the same as “cheering for”.
V. Thou shalt acknowledge thy child’s fears.
New experiences can be stressful situations. It is totally appropriate for your child to be scared. Don’t yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach would not have suggested the event or meet if your child was not ready. Remember your job is to love and support your child through all of the swimming experience.
VI. Thou shalt not criticise the officials.
Please don’t criticise those who are doing the best they can in purely voluntary positions. That’s right, officials don’t get paid and yet we could not hold a meet without them!
VII. Honour thy child’s coach.
The bond between coach and swimmer is special. It contributes to your child’s success as well as fun. Do not criticize the coach in the presence of your child.
VIII. Thou shalt be loyal and supportive of thy team.
It is not wise for parents to take swimmers and to jump from team to team. The water isn’t necessarily bluer in another team’s pool. Every team has its own internal problems, even teams that build champions. Children who switch from team to team find that it can be a difficult emotional experience. Often swimmers who do switch teams don’t do better than they did before they sought the bluer water.
IX. Thy child shalt have goals besides winning.
Most successful swimmers have learned to focus on the process and not the outcome. Giving an honest effort regardless of what the outcome is, is much more important than winning. One Olympian said, “My goal was to set a world record. Well, I did that, but someone else did it too, just a little faster than I did. I achieved my goal and I lost. Does this make me a failure? No, in fact I am very proud of that swim.” What a tremendous outlook to carry on through life.
X. Thou shalt not expect thy child to become an Olympian.
There are over 200,000 swimmers in Australian Swimming. There are only 52 spots available for the Olympic Team every four years. Your child’s odds of becoming an Olympian are very slim.